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Answering Slander, 1 Thessalonians 2

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The first big problem Paul had to address with the Thessalonian church was lies they were being told about himself (2:1-3:13; the lies came from Jews, 2:14-15). Paul didn’t answer these lies because he had a big ego or cared about what others thought about him, but because he was an apostle of Jesus Christ. Jesus specially chose the apostles to be his representatives and to give his truth through them to churches (Eph 2:20). So, when false believers slandered apostles, Jesus was slandered!

Paul reminds the Thessalonians that while he was with them he didn’t seek after their money but supplied his own needs (2:1-5). He didn’t want great glory or act wrongly among them, he sacrificially gave of himself for their good (vv. 6-12). Paul reminded the church how they welcomed him (v. 13) and that when they received the gospel they joyfully suffered as Christians (vv. 14-16).

Truths to Nail Down and Meditate On

  1. True gospel ministers have stellar, Christ-like character and conduct (vv. 1-12). As we saw from 1 Timothy 3:2 and Titus 1:6, they must be blameless. One who calls sinners to turn from wickedness and to live for the true God must himself have turned from sin to righteousness!
  2. The means and evidence of true conversion is receiving God’s truth (v. 13). “Receive” has the idea of welcoming warmly, with open arms, and believing as absolutely true. God’s Word is powerful, effectively working in those who truly believe. What is your attitude toward the Bible? When you read it or hear your pastor teach it, do you love it? Welcome it? Long for it?
  3. Those who oppose Jesus Christ and true religion can and often appear very religious (vv. 15-16). Paul would know, for before he became a Christian he was a zealous Jew who persecuted Jesus’ followers! Christian, don’t be surprised when there’s opposition to the truth (Phil 1:29; 2 Tim 3:12).

Christian Character, 1 Thessalonians 1

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The church in Thessalonica began during Paul’s second missionary journey (Acts 17:1-9). He wrote this letter to them because Timothy reported someone told lies about him (2:1-3:13) and that the church needed instruction about several matters of the Christian life (4:1-5:24).

It’s important to recognize that the NT letters were written because of things happening in the lives of those whom the letters were written to. This helps understand the reason why biblical authors wrote the letters (this is sometimes called the occasion of the letter; not once-in-a-while occasion, but what-was-happening occasion) and what the biblical authors’ goal or purpose in writing was.  

Despite the problems the Thessalonian church had, Paul thanked God for their Christ-like character (1:2-3), their example of steadfastness in persecution (vv. 5-7), and their reputation (vv. 8-10).

Truths to Nail Down and Meditate On

  1. God’s election of some sinners to salvation in Christ can be known (vv. 3-4). Those whom God in eternity past chose to save (Eph 1:4) will believe in Christ (Acts 13:48) and show the evidence of their election by changed lives (1 Thess 1:3, 9-10).
  2. There should be little doubt whether or not one is a Christian; a changed life seen by all is the best evidence of salvation (vv. 6-10). Most of the Thessalonian church were controlled by faith and love and possessed steadfast confidence in Jesus (vv. 3, 10). What do people see about your life?
  3. Salvation is received by turning from error to truth, from false religion to the true religion, from godless living to godly living (vv. 9-10). Idolatry (v. 9) in NT times was not just wrong worship; it involved gross immorality and godless living. True salvation is evidenced by turning from godless living and turning to Christ-centered living. That is what true repentance looks like!
  4. Christ’s return is the event Christians look forward to (v. 10)! This little letter has many references to Jesus’ return. As we will see in this and 2 Thessalonians, the “waiting” here does not mean sitting around and doing nothing, but rather the exact opposite! Because Christ is coming Christians should “serve the living and true God.” Are you looking forward to Christ’s return? Eagerly waiting for him?

Faith

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This is the 11th message in the series, “Gospel Truths,” taught by Pastor Dan Greenfield at Orwell Bible Church’s 10:30 a.m. Sunday service on May 22, 2022.

Faith is the knowledge of, assent to, and unreserved trust in the person and work of the Lord Jesus Christ as revealed in the Christian Scriptures. True faith alone in Christ alone is the sinner’s only hope of eternal life.

You can download  an outline of this message to follow along, here.

How Christians Must Live, Titus 3

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Titus must also exhort Christian slaves to be controlled by the Holy Spirit (vv. 1-2; the fruits of the Spirit are evident in these verses, showing one to be controlled by the Spirit). The basis—again—for such living is the grace of God. The same grace that saves is the basis, reason, and means for Christ-like living (vv. 3-7). In order for the church at Crete to be properly ordered Titus must continually teach and insist on Christian living (v. 8).

Having told Titus what he must continually teach, Paul then tells Titus what he must not give any time to whatsoever (v. 9). If there are any in the church who insist on teaching what is wrong and useless, they must be warned twice and then put out from the church if they refuse to repent (v. 10), having proven by their non-repentance and commitment to sin that they are unbelievers (v. 11).

Truths to Nail Down and Meditate On

  1. Salvation is entirely of the Lord, from start to finish (vv. 3-7). Consider Christian what you were like before you were saved (v. 3); did you deserve God’s kindness and mercy? What did you deserve from him? And yet what did the Lord do? Why? How? To what end?
  2. Christian living is Christian doctrine. Merely “believing” Christian truths without such bringing about a real and evident change in life is not true faith. Examine your life: how does it compare with Jesus’ truth about how you should live? Is your life “out of order?”
  3. Those whom Christ saves are justified and have the certainty of eternal life (v. 7). Despite many groups that teach salvation is by grace and works, or teach that Christians could lose their salvation, such beliefs are rooted sinners’ earning salvation, not what God has done in Christ Jesus.

How Christians Must Live, Titus 2

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In contrast to what false teachers say, Titus must “speak the things which are proper for sound doctrine” (v. 1), namely how Christians of different life situations must live as Christians (vv. 2-10). The foundation for living this way is the grace of God that saves all kinds of lost souls (v. 11) and teaches those saved how they should and shouldn’t live (vv. 12-14).

Because these things are “proper for sound doctrine” (v. 1) they must be spoken, and Christians must be accordingly urged and corrected. Regardless of what people may say or how they respond, truth must be spoken (v. 15). It is through Jesus’ truth that souls are freed (John 8:32) and made holy (John 17:17). It should not be surprising that sinners don’t like to hear such truth! (John 3:19-20)

Truths to Nail Down and Meditate On

  1. The only hope of salvation from sin is the grace of God (v. 11). Whether man or woman, old or young, married or single, salvation is by grace alone. What—who—are you relying on for salvation?
  2. The same grace that saves (v. 11) is the same grace that sanctifies (vv. 12-14). God’s salvation results in holy living. Christian, you must stop living a God-ignoring, craving-oriented, sinful life, and you must live a self-controlled, righteous, God-focused life. What is your life characterized by?

Cleaning up a Messy Church, Titus 1

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Titus was a Gentile convert (Gal 2:3) and co-laborer (2 Cor 2:13; 8:23) of the apostle Paul’s.

Like Timothy, Titus was not the pastor of the church on the island of Crete, but was Paul’s representative there. Paul had other plans for Titus (3:12—Titus was to join Paul at Nicopolis once other co-workers arrived there in Crete).

Cretans had a notoriously and proverbially low moral character (1:12). There’s a Greek word that means “to act as a Cretan” which meant the same thing as “to play the liar.” Greek scholar Daniel Wallace put verse 12 this way: “Liars ever, men of Crete; nasty brutes who love to eat.” This was the heritage of the Christians Titus ministered to.

The church of Crete needed qualified spiritual leadership (1:5-9); they had false teachers among them (1:10-16; 3:9-11), and they struggled with unchristian behavior (2:1-3:8, 14).

These issues caused the church to be disorderly—or, out of order, unregulated, confused, a mess—so Paul wrote this letter to help Titus put the church in good order by appointing godly pastors (1:5-9), rebuking false teaching (1:10-16), and encouraging godly living (chaps. 2-3).

Truths to Nail Down and Meditate On

  1. Jesus cares about the “orderliness” of his churches. Orderly involves properly arranged and regulated. Jesus tells what his churches must “look” like, what characterizes true orderliness, what makes a church a good church, and Jesus details such needed orderliness in the book of Titus. Over the last several years churches have almost bragged about being a “messy” church, some even naming themselves that! There is nothing virtuous or right in remaining in a messy, disorderly, unregulated, confused, and incorrect state or condition. Jesus says through Paul in 1 Cor 14:33, 40, “God is not the author of confusion, but of peace, as in all the churches of the saints…let all things be done decently and in order.” We must heed what Jesus, the Head of the church, says about his church!
  2. Pastors must have godly, Christ-like character to faithfully teach truth and rebuke error (vv. 5-9). Sadly, pastors frequently evaluate themselves and are evaluated by external standards such as being culturally “with it.” While there is no virtue in being “culturally backward,” Jesus Christ demands pastors to be thoroughly Christian, not worldly, so that truth is faithfully ministered.
  3. Jesus’ command for straying believers and teachers in a local church is sharp rebuke (v. 13). Such must be given with great love (Gal 6:1), trusting the Lord to bring them to repentance (2 Tim 2:24-26). The end or goal is not to win an argument but so “that they may be sound in the faith” (Titus 1:13).
  4. False teaching hardens minds and consciences in sin (vv. 15-16). There is no such thing as “neutral” thinking. Everything must be seen from the Triune God’s perspective.

1 Timothy 6

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The last group of church members Paul addresses are slaves (vv. 1-2). Slaves must be taught to honor God’s Word by honoring their masters, even if those masters are Christians!

Paul warns Timothy of false teachers, for they twist God’s truth, divide God’s people, and are religious mercenaries who are materially minded (vv. 3-10). Paul then urged Timothy to live in light of Christ’s return (vv. 11-16) by fleeing everything associated with false teaching, following after Christian character, fighting for truth, and looking for Christ.

Lastly, wealthy Christians should use their wealth for ministry (vv. 17-19) and Timothy must guard the truth and resist false teaching (vv. 20-21).

Truths to Nail Down and Meditate On

  1. False teaching affects the entire church. From the beginning of 1 Timothy to its end, false teaching has been addressed and warned against. From 1 Timothy we have seen that false teaching destroys lives, warps worship, twists Christian truth, creates controversy, denies God’s good gifts, leads souls astray, prevents needy Christians from receiving help, corrupts church leadership, and leads to hell. Remember 4:16!
  2. Being content with the basics of life is essential to living a Christ-like life (vv. 3-10). When professing believers focus more on physical, material things than spiritual things, their souls start to drown and eventually die. The world and its lusts are passing away, but “he who does the will of God abides forever” (1 John 2:17). Keep a “loose grip” on this world and a “tight grip” on Christ!
  3. Jesus is coming again (v. 14)! No one knows the day of his coming (“which He will manifest in His own time,” v. 15), so until then it is always time to live and serve Christ faithfully.

1 Timothy 5

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Paul continues to give Timothy, his representative to the church in Ephesus, specific instructions for “how you ought to conduct yourself in the house of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth” (3:15). While there is organization to the church, it is not merely an organization. The church is a body of baptized believers who covenant together to love, learn from, and labor for Jesus Christ. 

There will be times when believers must be rebuked, so in God’s household they must be treated as family members, with love, honor, and respect (vv. 1-2). Widows without family support should receive care from the church if she is of godly character and sufficient age (vv. 3-16). Note that believers who have widows must care for their needy family members (v. 16); failing to do so shows no love for the Lord and His saints (v. 8). Pastors should work hard, fear sin, and be impartial in their relationships (vv. 17-25).

Truths to Nail Down and Meditate On

  1. Churches must care for members who are widows. Because of various government programs it is easy to think widows’ needs are supplied. While such programs are a help, churches must be sure that their widows’ needs are met. There are more than just financial needs!
  2. The “elders who rule well…especially those who labor in the word and doctrine” refers to the same office, not two different offices (some point to this passage as supporting two offices, ruling and teaching elders). All elders must carry out their responsibilities well and all elders must be able to teach (3:2). This passage (vv. 17-18) teaches that pastors should be financially supported (1 Cor 9:7-15; Gal 6:6). Pray for your pastor that he will “rule well” and “labor in the word and doctrine”!

Repentance

This is the 10th message in the series, “Gospel Truths,” taught by Pastor Dan Greenfield at Orwell Bible Church’s 10:30 a.m. Sunday service on May 15 2022.

You can download  an outline of this message to follow along, here.

The Importance and Blessings of Marriage

You can download an outline of this message to follow along, here.

1 Timothy 4

The Holy Spirit clearly says that seriousness of the wrong teaching going on in the Ephesian church would sadly continue to grow and multiply (v. 1). There will be those who pervert the faith because they have denied the faith (vv. 1-5). Note that the ultimate source of false teaching is from demons (v. 1, “doctrines of demons” means “doctrines from demons”). A single word that means “depart from the faith” (v. 1) is apostasy—abandoning biblical truth.

In view of present and coming apostasy, Timothy and the Ephesian pastors must exhibit and execute a faithful ministry (vv. 6-16). Faithful ministry protects and preserves both the pastor and the flock. Teaching these truths nourishes the church (v. 6), requires rejecting error (v. 7), and involves commanding and teaching (v. 11).

Truths to Nail Down and Meditate On

  1. Apostasy is one of Satan’s tools to destroy a church. Pretending it doesn’t exist is not only foolish and deadly but willfully ignores the Holy Spirit’s clear warning (v. 1). Christians can spot apostasy (vv. 2-3) by knowing God’s truth (vv. 4-5).
  2. Devotion to sound doctrine protects one from heeding demonically taught doctrines. Such devotion involves teaching and carefully following it (vv. 6, 11, 13, 14), rejecting what is false (v. 7), living it out (v. 8), following godly examples (v. 12), meditating on them (v. 15), and closely watching how you live (v. 16).

1 Timothy 3

Remember from chapter one there were some pastors of the Ephesian church that were teaching wrong things. That negatively affected public worship, so Paul gave instructions regarding that in chapter two. Here in chapter three Paul then directs Timothy’s attention to the necessary requirements for church leadership (pastors and deacons), the very ones involved in wrong teaching. In the NT pastors are also called elders and overseers/bishops (see how these three titles are used interchangeably for the same man in Acts 20:17, 29; 1 Pet 5:1-2).

Overseers must be godly men who can teach and care for the church (vv. 1-7). Note that the requirements to be a pastor nearly all deal with Christ-likeness in character and home relations. The only requirement that is not character-related is being able to teach (v. 2). While every Christian should be able to teach truth to others (Heb 5:12), teaching here (v. 2) is a spiritual gift from God enabling a man to publicly explain the Word so others can understand it.

Deacons must be godly men and good managers (vv. 8-13). Though deacons’ primary ministry deals with the church’s physical needs (cf. Acts 6:1-6), that still requires Christ-like character in every aspect of life. It is best to understand verse 11 as referring to the wives of deacons rather than female deacons, as before and after verse 11 deacons’ characteristics are addressed.

Truths to Nail Down and Meditate On

  1. Pastors must be men, not women. This is clearly specified in 2:12 and 3:1-2. Just because some women could do the work of a pastor doesn’t mean they should. God gives Christians gifts and abilities to use in the areas he ordains them to be used in.
  2. Every Christian should strive to have the Christ-like characteristics of godliness necessary for pastors and deacons. You don’t need a position to be Christ-like! In fact, if someone doesn’t have Christ-like character he shouldn’t have a position of leadership.
  3. The character and purpose of the church demands proper conduct in the church (3:15). “Pillar and ground of the truth” points to the purpose of the church, to declare and defend Christian truth. Christians must be serious about the house of the living God!
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